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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was colleague.

Last in Parliament September 2008, as Independent MP for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques (Québec)

Lost her last election, in 2008, with 5% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Committees of the House June 17th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I would like to hear my hon. colleague explain what she means—and I believe her—when she said, if I understood correctly, that the Mont Tremblant airport is the only airport required to pay these unfair customs charges. So the people watching may understand—and not for the benefit of the party across the floor, since it has little respect for anything, least of all members who are speaking—I would like her to explain this. It is important for those watching us.

June 16th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, in the 40 seconds or so I have left, I would like to say that it is surprising to hear the Conservative government blaming others again. The Conservative Party is the one in power at this time.

I am glad I asked the question on April 14 and 16. People were there to keep a close watch and look into what was happening at Pointe-au-Père, in order to solve the problem of the gross negligence that we have seen.

As for the government's obligations, can the parliamentary secretary tell us in practical terms how much Environment Canada will invest in this site in order to correct the situation? He talked about 35 people across Canada, but how many people will visit the Pointe-au-Père site on a regular basis, in order to ensure that it will be revitalized?

June 16th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I want to come back to the question I asked the Minister of the Environment a few weeks ago, on April 14, in which I mentioned a critical situation in the Pointe-au-Père National Wildlife Area, near Rimouski. That area has become part of Rimouski in the past few years. I agree with the hon. member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup who says that is a very beautiful part of the country.

This site has been completely abandoned by the federal government. Campers and pets are allowed there unsupervised. The sewers are overflowing. As a result of the federal government's chronic lack of involvement, migratory birds have deserted the site.

This is a major problem because the government had declared the Pointe-au-Père site a protected area since it is an essential habitat for migratory birds that are at risk.

Lack of funding and human resources have really put this natural habitat at risk. I am sure my colleagues in this House understand what it means to save species at risk and to save a natural habitat.

The minister confirmed that he felt this national wildlife area was still valuable. He said there would be increased surveillance at the Pointe-au-Père site in particular.

I will personally see to it that the government keeps its promise and that both financial and human resources are allocated to protect this important site forever.

There is a lot of work to do because, as I said, this federally protected area has been not only neglected but outright abandoned by both the current and previous governments.

The Government of Quebec and the municipalities of Rimouski and, for a time, Pointe-au-Père, have had to do what they could to look after this protected area.

This issue is still current. The environment commissioner's latest report revealed that several federally protected areas are at risk for want of management plans and adequate resources.

Once again, what does the Conservative government plan to do about this, not just for our protected area in the Lower St. Lawrence, but for other areas within our borders?

Unfortunately, we have seen that the government does not really care about conservation organizations, such as ZIP committees—committees for areas of prime concern—which take care of various St. Lawrence River protection and promotion projects together with the Government of Quebec and communities.

These organizations have already been weakened by the government's delays in providing the funding they need for their projects, and now their projects are being put off even longer. That is what happened to 14 Lower St. Lawrence ZIPs, and one of them in particular.

Eventually, we got an answer. However, I would like to reiterate my question. Funding decisions for the new year are supposed to be made in October or November, so why are those decisions not made, and why are people not informed? Even though we prevailed for the Lower St. Lawrence—and I am really happy about that—there was no reason to make the ZIPs wait that long. That was ill-considered. These organizations are important to us, and we should be able to depend on the government to look after them.

Canada Elections Act June 16th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. As I said earlier, and I have discussed this with several people, but many members in this House are not aware of the fact that members sitting as independents are not allowed to speak at committee, unless another member agrees to share his or her time with them. All they are allowed to do is sit at the table.

I suggest that the rules be changed. The parties should be able to reach an agreement. Similarly, when we rise to seek the unanimous consent of the House, we should not state that there is agreement among the parties. Everyone in this House should forget about the political parties and think instead of the other meaning of parties, or sides.

I can say that the four independent members of Parliament are merrily ignored by all parties. It is as if they did not exist, as if their consent was not required. So, from time to time, I make a point of rising to refuse consent, at which time I indicate that I was duly elected to this House, even though I left a party to sit as an independent member, as opposed to another member who was elected as an independent. I work as hard as my colleagues.

Every independent member should have speaking time both in the House and at committees. That is essential. We have things to do and things to say, and what we do is just as valuable as what our colleagues do. We bring grist to the mill. We are here to debate. A fine way to recognize that would be to give unanimous consent to allow independent members to speak at least three or four minutes every two hours of sitting time of a committee. That is not too much.

I expect my colleague from Yukon to make that suggestion to his party.

Canada Elections Act June 16th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, the answer to that is easy. I know exactly what the member is getting at: he is looking for an answer he can use.

I have always expressed my opinion publicly, whether to party officials or in my riding. I am against any kind of action that makes it appear as though people are taking advantage of money that, as I said, comes from public coffers, from taxpayers.

That is disgraceful in and of itself, regardless of the party involved. There could be as many as 150 registered parties in Canada. I have no idea. Provincially, in Quebec anyway, it is the same thing. It would be appalling to ask a party to spend as much as possible in such-and-such a riding when reimbursement is guaranteed because it will garner at least 10% of the vote.

To answer my colleague, it is unbelievable that any candidate representing a party in this House—Conservative, Liberal, New Democrat, Bloc or independent—would be unable to figure this out for him or herself, would fail to think this over and decide that it is not right, to realize that the money is not a gift from the gods, that taking money from fellow citizens and the general public simply should not be done.

Actually, there is a way to work it out without using the maximum allowed.

Canada Elections Act June 16th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her glowing comments. It is always nice to recognize each other's work. Most of us do very good work, with conviction and sometimes with emotion. I understand my colleague to have said that we owe this legislation to Mr. Chrétien. I am pleased to say, as other colleagues have said in this House, that he followed Mr. Lévesque's lead. People know that not only am I an independent, but I am also a separatist. I am always pleased to commend Mr. Lévesque, his influence and his inspiration.

As far as limits are concerned, as I was saying earlier, I think our goal should be to spend as little as possible and not to adopt the philosophy of spending as much as possible, since it is not our money. It is not right to think that way because it is all our constituents who pay a big part of the bill, whether through the Elections Canada rebates, and that is fine, or through financial donations.

In my opinion, it has always been absurd for political parties to tell their candidates to take advantage and spend the maximum in order to elect their party and their candidates. The priority should obviously be to work as democratically as possible, to defend the common good and our citizen's interests and to show them how we, as candidates, plan on doing that.

What about visual pollution? We should agree to not buy the huge numbers of signs that we see in major centres or rural regions on posts kilometres apart. Candidates in rural areas know this. In the cities, it is a visual abomination and is very harmful to the environment because the material used, coroplast, is not recyclable. It can be used to insulate garages, but it lasts 504 years.

Our guiding principles could be to spend less and also to save the environment. I have never believed, especially in the case of candidates outside major urban centres, that regional advertising in daily newspapers has helped elect anyone. We do it because everyone else is doing it. Candidates end up spending inordinate amounts.

To answer my colleague's question, I have always been pleased to say, and this can be verified, that I have always spent only half of the amount allowed by the Chief Electoral Officer in my riding.

Canada Elections Act June 16th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take this opportunity to present my general views on this bill, and on what accountability with respect to loans means.

Of course, I cannot imagine that many people here would be opposed to tighter controls. Personally, I am very much in support of a strict control of election expenses, and of ensuring that there is no way to circumvent the Canada Elections Act, so as to manage—illegally—to spend more money during an election campaign.

As we know—and the numbers are often mentioned by many in our society, with good reason—elections cost a fortune. To whom? Because of our type of financing—and we should be pleased that it is primarily a public type of funding—elections cost money to taxpayers. They are the ones who must once again foot the bill. Indeed, a large number of candidates will be refunded for their election expenses. Of course, this costs a lot of money to militants, to people with or without party memberships, who decide to make an election contribution. It is important to keep this in mind, when we look at the spirit and the letter of legislation dealing directly or indirectly with the issue of financing.

Since 2004, when I ran in my first non-municipal election, a federal one, I thought—and I still do—that the goal was to limit money spent during an election or leadership campaign. I always thought that the last thing a candidate should do is blithely say that they need a certain amount of money or else they will not be able to get elected. There could be some stiff consequences for the people paying the bill at the end of the day.

In recent years, I have observed different parties and realized that the opposite is true: parties are departing from the spirit of the law to find ways to spend as much money as possible, and in some cases, more money than the law allows. That in itself is rather telling. At the federal level, the law was changed a few years ago to give parties access to rather significant funding: $1.75 per vote in the different ridings. This corresponds to direct funding for the parties by the government, thus by taxpayers, the public, the people paying taxes in various forms.

One way to spend more than what is authorized is obviously to take out loans for which the terms of repayment are unfair. These loans make it possible for individuals or businesses to make significant contributions to get a candidate or party elected, while ignoring the set limits.

In my opinion, election spending should be as closely monitored as possible, and any deviations should be punished as severely as possible. That is the objective of this bill, and for that it is laudable, although there are still some restrictions, such as the ones other colleagues have mentioned. I will not go into detail about what was discussed before my speech.

Nevertheless, there is an inequity that I would like to see changed one day. For our democratic process, referred to as an “election”, there are essentially two types of candidates: party candidates and independent candidates.

Of course I take full responsibility for the decision I made a little over a year ago. When I run again, as I have announced, it will be up to me to take charge of my election campaign according to the guidelines I will set for myself.

People should take the time to read the Canada Elections Act and talk to independent candidates, past or future. It is remarkable to see that because they do not run under a party banner, they are not treated the same under the Canada Elections Act as are candidates who run as part of a party. Whether or not a party is aiming to be in power is irrelevant.

As soon as it comes to a recognized party with associations, there are known financing methods. I will name a simple way to generate revenue known to the majority of people here in this House, as well as to those watching at home. I am talking about fundraising activities—collecting, one way or another, reasonable contributions of $20 or $50 that the people in our municipalities and towns are willing to give to a candidate or a party.

If independent candidates try to obtain funding, they must naturally give a receipt to record the transaction and keep detailed financial records. Yet, they cannot give tax receipts. They can only do that once the event has started, that is to say, once an election has been called. That seems truly absurd to me.

The member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel had this to say on Friday:

—it is disappointing that not everyone in this House realizes that politics should be open to every man and woman, to every citizen. It is not a matter of money, friends or anything like that. It takes someone [referring to candidates] who is able to express their ideas and defend them—

This clearly demonstrates that an inequity exists from the outset, since the elections act imposes such a limit and makes such an important distinction between independent candidates and candidates running for a particular party. In any case, I would like to tell future independent candidates to be prepared, because once they are elected to this House, the inequity will continue. Indeed, our parliamentary system is a party-based system, so one must have patience. We are given the opportunity to speak during a debate, as I am speaking now, but only after all other members have spoken and right before the debate ends. We can attend committee meetings and sit at the table, but we do not have the right to speak, unless another member shares a moment or two of his or her time with us. I would point out that this is highly unlikely, since time is always at a premium in committees.

So, once again, when it comes to elections, there is discrimination. The Canada Elections Act truly reserves different treatment for candidates who want to serve their constituents but not under a particular party.

As for loans, it would be very difficult for independent candidates to take out loans in good conscience, knowing full well that they will not be able to pay them back. Indeed, only small amounts of money could be borrowed, considering the short amount of time these people have for their funding, that is, probably 25, 27 or 30 days, at the most.

Anyone who has been through an election campaign knows what is involved in funding a campaign, not to mention running the campaign itself. Since there is a non-repayment provision, it would be entirely dishonest to take out a loan when the candidate knows full well that he or she will not be able to pay it back when the time comes, with no riding association involved that make up the shortfall by holding special events. Clearly, this is impossible for independent candidates.

I thought this was an important point to raise for those watching us. Indeed, very few people know this.

Like my other colleagues in the House, I regularly meet with people in my riding and we talk about this aspect of election campaigns. It should be said that many hundreds of people run in federal elections as independents. It is not unusual. It is unfair to them right off the top, therefore, because they will not have the same opportunity to raise money as people who run on behalf of a party.

We know very well, of course, that candidates can fund their own campaign. We are entitled, as individuals, to give to our own campaigns. I have always done so, and the amount can be topped up with an equal amount given as a candidate. Unless the figures have changed, it is about $2,200. That is already a good start for someone who wants to run as an independent. It will hardly surprise anyone to hear it, but I think these rules should be changed, along with some others.

My colleague from Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup said earlier that independents and party members run with all the pros and the cons that their status entails. He also said that candidates should be given equal opportunities. I agree with him on that. They should have equal opportunities, and this means the overall situation should be fair. That is not the case, though, as I just explained.

It is necessary, therefore, for the most basic funding avenues to be available to any citizen who wants to get involved in politics. I think we need fewer and fewer irritants because there is unfortunately a lot of cynicism at large in the general public. I say unfortunately because I think it is bad for democracy. I can understand it very well, though, because we regularly see moments in the House that are not exactly brimming over with respect and goodwill. Quite the contrary, there are times when the least pleasant aspects of human nature take over, on both sides of the aisle. We often see it at the end of a session when it is time for us to leave and go meet with our voters and take a few days of well deserved rest.

In summary, independent thinkers who do not want to have their say through a particular political party have a somewhat more limited ability to speak and act when the key moment arrives in democratic life, that is to say, elections. In other ways, though, many people clearly see an advantage in being independent, and I am one of them.

I chose to be an independent MP and believe me when I say that I accept full responsibility for that. I just wanted to point out the differences. I am not complaining. I just wanted to mention some of the inequities that exists. And I believe that this inequity, if not injustice, must be corrected because we have a democratic system. We are proud of our democratic system. Furthermore, we are envied throughout the world.

When we have to take measures to restore balance, we do so here on behalf of the people we represent. And I believe that such measures are indicated.

Not for Profit Industry June 16th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, many Quebec stakeholders, the UMQ, Minister Bachand and the two federal ministers responsible for the western and Atlantic economic development agencies believe that NPOs have a role to play in the development of the regions and should be funded by Economic Development Canada. The Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec believes that his government should stop funding NPOs and even believes—he has said it loud and clear—that they just get in the way.

Will the Prime Minister make his minister listen to reason and ensure that he stops digging in his heels?

Food and Drugs Act June 10th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I am old enough to remember the disaster caused by thalidomide, for example. Our colleagues referred to that. In addition, we spoke a great deal about other drugs with adverse effects.

This is my answer to the parliamentary secretary: we cannot put a price on protecting our citizens. However, we have work to do when a bill is worded in such a way that it causes citizens to fear that certain substances—primarily natural products—would be more heavily penalized and would involve greater risks than drugs.

It is not our role to instill fear in our citizens; we are here to reassure, help and, of course, protect them. I would never want to help one group at the expense of another.

In my mind, one question remains: how can Health Canada allow pharmaceutical companies to be self-regulating to the point that they verify their own drugs? I believe that—

Food and Drugs Act June 10th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, it is difficult to answer the member's question in only a few minutes. I thank him for the question. I think that the most important aspect of his question is precisely that there are so many concerns about the operational framework for managing all this. There are so many concerns—I referred to them earlier—about the potential fines. When the citizens who we legitimately represent begin to be more afraid of how the bill will harm them rather than seeing how it will benefit them, that is reason enough to question it. That is when we have to work together to truly improve the bill so that it is worthy of the people we represent.